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bone-grubber (plural bone-grubbers)

  1. (obsolete) A person who scavenges for waste materials such as bones and rags to sell.
    • 1842, William Collier, “A Chapter on Beards,” Bentley’s Miscellany, Volume 11, January-June 1842, p. 575,[1]
      More than half of our modern scribes, and particularly the dramatic portion of them, are little better than literary bone-grubbers, pickers and stealers of unconsidered trifles,—men who, having no brains, live by spinning the brains of others, and give themselves credt for originality.
    • 1851, Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 2, p. 139,[2]
      The bone-grubber generally seeks out the narrow back streets, where dust and refuse are cast, or where any dust-bins are accessible. The articles for which he chiefly searches are rags and bones—rags he prefers—but waste metal, such as bits of lead, pewter, copper, brass, or old iron, he prizes above all.
    • 1875, James Mackintosh, “All About Rats,” Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 41, No. 2, February 1875, p. 183,[3]
      If anyone believes that rats are not used for human food, he must change his opinion. In Paris the chiffoniers or bone-grubbers eat them.
    • 1880, W. T. Washburn, The Unknown City: A Story of New York, New York: Jesse Haney & Co., Chapter 47, p. 351,[4]
      While you were there father died. As you know, he was a bone-grubber; the only property he left me was a hooked stick, a bag, and a horse’s skeleton.